Apple and Ireland Win €13bn State Aid Appeal
The General Court of the European Union has today annulled the Commission’s decision regarding two Irish tax rulings in favour of Apple. The Commission had considered that the two rulings constituted State Aid, granting Apple €13bn in unlawful tax advantages.
The annulment of the Commission’s decision was on the basis that the Commission had failed to meet the requisite standard of proof. In that regard the outcome is similar to the Court’s rejection of other state aid decisions.
While accepting the Commission’s argument that an OECD arm’s length test was an appropriate tool to assess profit allocation (notwithstanding the absence of such a test in the national law at the time) the Court has concluded that the Commission has failed to prove that profits should have been allocated to the Irish branches. The Commission also failed to show that the tax rulings in dispute were methodologically unsound or the application of discretion.
The Commission will have the ability to appeal this decision to the Court of Justice however, the nature of these findings may make appeal on some of the issues difficult.
The decision is very helpful to those taxpayers in the UK who are affected by the Commission’s decision to regard the partial and full exemption of non-trading financing profits as state aid. The nature of this ruling, consistent with other similar outcomes annulling state aid decisions in the Belgian Excess Profits and Starbucks cases, challenges the Commission’s approach to the UK provisions which assumes that those provisions produce an advantage generally to all taxpayers benefiting from them. Rather, the Court has now consistently required the Commission to prove an advantage in specific cases. The “one-size-fits-all” approach to state aid appears, at the level of the General Court at least, to be precarious.
For those interested in the UK financing profits state aid case, a virtual seminar is being arranged to discuss recent developments and issues which have arisen from HMRC’s collection activities. Please contact Michael Anderson if you would like to attend.
An Assessment to Tax is never ‘stale’, but it might be out of date: HMRC v Tooth
This article briefly discusses the key points arising out of the decision of the UK Supreme Court in HMRC v Tooth  UKSC 17. The case considered (1) whether a discovery assessment could become “stale” and (2) the meaning of the phrase “deliberate inaccuracy”.
VATA 1994 s.47, Agency, Onward Supply Relief, & Double Taxation
On 12 July 2021, the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) (“FTT”) released its decision in Scanwell Logistics (UK) Limited v HMRC  UKFTT 261 (TC), rejecting the taxpayer’s claim for onward supply relief (“OSR”).
Whilst OSR is now limited, post-Brexit, to goods imported into Northern Ireland for onward supply to the EU, the FTT’s discussion of agency under section 47 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 (“VATA”) is of broader interest.
The case serves as a reminder of the significant financial consequences that can result from errors in tax planning, as Scanwell was ultimately held liable for £5.7 million in unpaid import VAT despite the fact that the imported goods almost immediately left the UK (which, if properly planned, could have meant Scanwell was relieved from liability to import VAT).
Draft Finance Bill 2022—tax avoidance measures
Helen McGhee, senior associate at Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP, considers the draft Finance Bill 2022 clauses published on 20 July 2021 in relation to tax avoidance and recent updates to the tax avoidance regime.
Getting Closer: A Global Minimum Tax on Corporations
On 1 July 2021, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced that countries representing over 90% of global GDP had agreed to a global minimum tax on corporations (“GMCT”). The GMCT seeks to put a floor on tax competition on corporate income through the introduction of a minimum corporate tax of at least 15%. Whilst certain elements give rise to positive expectations, some caveats should be noted. Much will depend on (1) the outcome of future political negotiations and (2) the detail of the drafting at international and national levels.
The DBKAG & K (CJEU) decision: an opportunity for investment funds?
On 17 June 2021, the European Court decided the joint cases K (C-58/20) and DBKAG (C-59/20) regarding whether the supply of certain services constituted the “management of special investment funds”, benefiting from the VAT exemption enshrined in Article 135(1)(g) of Council Directive 2006/112/EC.